The sub-four metre SUV segment has become one of the most competitive classes of vehicles in India today. And since its launch, Maruti Suzuki's Vitara Brezza has always been at the tip of everybody's tongue when the topic of buying a sub-four metre SUV comes up. And with good reason! It's affordable-ish, practical, quite premium and an absolute hoot to drive. It's been winning all our comparisons and even managed to win Bert over when it was his long term car. It dethroned the Ford EcoSport as the king of the segment, and has successfully fended off potential threats from cars like the Honda WR-V and the Mahindra TUV300.
The Tata's got quite a few strong assets in hand, and we find out if the Maruti's winning streak can finally be broken
However, there's a new threat now, a bright blue one - the Tata Nexon. It's got quite a few strong assets in hand, and we find out if the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza's winning streak can finally be broken.
The Tata Nexon's design is sure to bring about mixed opinions. Bert, for instance, finds that the numerous design elements are a bit of an overkill. Rishabh likes how fresh it looks, and likes "the drama." I, on the other hand, am stuck somewhere in the middle. I really love how the Tata Nexon still looks very concept-car like on the whole. The front, with its big friendly grin, made up of the headlights and grille, looks a lot nicer in the flesh especially with those neat DRLs. The side profile is quite clever because the upward sloping shoulder line along with the roofline's design, create the illusion of a sharply sloping roof. That said, from the B-pillar onwards to the rear, the Tata Nexon loses its SUV look, and appears to be more like a hatchback. The rear-end is the funkiest angle of the car, with those god-knows-what shape taillights and the design elements connecting them.
The Tata Nexon's front, with its big friendly grin, made up of the headlights and grille, looks a lot nicer in the flesh especially with those neat DRLs
In comparison, the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza looks a lot simpler with comparatively fewer design elements. While it does look smart, it seems to lack some flair when you park it next to the Tata Nexon. That said, the simpler design will probably age better than the Tata Nexon's, and it is the more SUV-looking of the two because of the window line, the square-ish wheel arches and the broad rear end. What is very much appreciated here though, is that the Tata Nexon is a huge departure in terms of design for a company that has been very conservative with some of their previous cars. Good job! We like this new sense of adventure in the Tata team.
From the B-pillar onwards to the rear, the Tata Nexon loses its SUV look, and appears to be more like a hatchback
It's the same case with the Tata Nexon's interior. There's so much happening in terms of design, starting with the extensive use of shiny materials on the dashboard, and the tablet-like infotainment display. However, one thing that hasn't changed, and I really wish it had, is the steering wheel and the instrument cluster. We've been seeing the same steering since the Zest, and the bland-looking instrument cluster, also used in the Tiago and Tigor, really don't quite match with the rest of the interior.
There's so much happening in terms of design inside the Tata Nexon, starting with the extensive use of shiny materials on the dashboard, and the tablet-like infotainment display
And annoyingly, the steering position is still a little truck-like with a slight upward tilt - something Tata should fix. The front seats are quite hard too and the position of the pedals make it seem like you're pressing them down rather than forward. And both of these I suspect will make you feel more tired over long journeys. In the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza on the other hand, I've covered over a 1,000km in a day and still felt fresh as a daisy at the end of it. But on the whole, the Tata Nexon again has a very interesting design that will bring in polarised opinions. Personally, it's a case of a-little-too-much-happening for my liking.
The Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza looks a lot simpler with comparatively fewer design elements
The Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza is the more SUV-looking of the two because of the window line, the square-ish wheel arches and the broad rear end
The Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza on the other hand, with a far simpler design and layout, has a slight European flavour - something I personally prefer. There are far fewer buttons, and the cleaner design appeals a lot more to me. The plastics, while not the best in the market, are still pretty good, feel better to touch and quality is consistent all around. In the Tata Nexon however, there are definitely certain areas which have good plastics, like the top of the dash, and some portions, like the door pads. But in some areas the plastic quality could have been better.
The Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza, with a far simpler interior design and layout, has a slight European flavour
Where the Tata Nexon does score high though is with respect to cabin space. The Tata Nexon's wheelbase is just 2mm shorter than the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza's at 2,498mm, but knee room is marginally better, and there's 22 litres more boot space. Being a little wider, it has around 65mm more shoulder room than the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza too, and surprisingly, for what looks like rather small rear windows, it doesn't feel claustrophobic at all. The Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza on the other hand does have more head room at the back, and all around visibility is better thanks to the larger rear windshield.
The Tata Nexon we drove runs one of Tata's latest engines - a 1.5-litre Revotorq turbo-diesel which produces 110PS of power at 3,750rpm and 260Nm of torque from 1,500-2,750rpm - along with a 6-speed manual transmission. The first thing I noticed, and really liked about this engine, is how quiet and refined it is for a car in this segment. At low revs, you'll just about hear a faint engine note, while at the higher end of the rev counter, there is the expected diesel rumble. However, there are hardly ever any major vibrations creeping into the cabin. In comparison, the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza's familiar 90PS/200Nm 1.3-litre Multijet turbo-diesel is quite loud throughout the rev range. But, still it doesn't feel crude and there aren't any vibrations entering the cabin here either.
The first thing I noticed, and really liked about the Tata Nexon's engine, is how quiet and refined it is for a car in this segment
Also very likeable about the Tata Nexon's engine is its driveability. There is turbo lag till around 1,500rpm, but it still pulls without complaint before that, which means you can drive around at low speeds without having to constantly downshift. And when the turbo does spool up, power delivery is a very linear, leading up to a strong mid range and pretty decent top-end power which dies out just before 4,000rpm.
In comparison, the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza's engine has terrible low-end grunt, and it'll start to complain with stutters if you don't downshift at low speeds. However, when the turbo is all spooled up at around 1,800rpm, it kinda smacks you in the face with the 200Nm of torque. From there on, the car sprints ahead at full blast before fizzling out at around 4,500rpm. It takes some getting used to, but you'll eventually start to enjoy the way the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza shoots forward.
The familiar 1.3-litre turbo-diesel takes some getting used to, but you'll eventually start to enjoy the way the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza shoots forward
What's especially nice about the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza is the 5-speed gearbox which feels so precise, quick and has pretty short throws. The Tata Nexon's 6-speed gearbox on the other hand, while not bad, doesn't feel as precise or as quick as the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza's. In fact, we felt a little gap between shifting of gears and transmission of power when we launched it in the acceleration runs and this is one of the main reasons it's around 1.5 seconds slower to 100kmph than the Maruti Suzuki Brezza which does it in 13.6 seconds. The other reason is the 110kg that the Tata Nexon carries over the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza. However, the availability of a sixth gear in the Tata Nexon means it offers a more relaxed drive at highway speeds, lesser noise from the engine and better fuel efficiency as the engine runs at far lower rpms.
Unlike the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza, the Tata Nexon also has driving modes like Eco, City and Sport. In Eco mode on the highway, the Tata Nexon returned 24.7kmpl, whereas the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza which does not have an Eco mode delivered just 19.6kmpl. This figure may have been higher had the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza also had a 6th gear. But the smaller engine in the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza translates to better efficiency in the city - 15.8kmpl compared to the Tata Nexon's 14.4kmpl.
I found that the Tata Nexon has a good balance between ride and handling. It's not what I'd call soft, but it does a better job of soaking up bumps than the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza. It does feel a bit firm over the larger holes and bumps if you don't slow down enough, but it's nowhere near how firm the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza feels. And the suspension is pretty quiet too, especially compared to the loud thuds you hear from the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza's suspension when you speed through a series of bumps. The Tata Nexon also feels better planted over bad roads at higher speeds, whereas the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza is comparatively skittish if you don't reduce pace.
But it's that firm suspension that makes the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza a favourite when it comes to corner carving. The firm suspension keeps body roll in check and you'll be surprised at the speeds you can carry through corners in this car. In comparison, the softer setup in the Tata Nexon leads to some well-controlled but clearly evident body roll.
High speed stability on both are good, and the steering weighs up well and predictably on both
High speed stability on both are good, and the steering weighs up well and predictably on both. However, the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza's steering feels a little crisper and more direct - something enthusiasts like me will enjoy. That's not to say the Tata Nexon's steering is not nice. There's a good amount of feedback and turn-in is quite sharp and precise.
The brakes on the Tata Nexon are pretty good, with sharp initial bite and good feedback, which bring the car down from 100-0kmph in 39.02m and 2.80 seconds. In comparison, the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza did the same in 41.72m and 3.24 seconds, but the brakes were more progressive in nature. However, it must be noted that the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza we tested had over 17,000km on the odo whereas the Tata Nexon had just over 3,000km.
In this day and age, we'd love to see ABS and dual airbags as standard features on all cars sold in India. Unfortunately, that's not yet the case. However, we do expect them to be standard at least in cars in this segment. And in the Tata Nexon, it is - driver and co-driver airbags, along with ABS and EBD are standard on all four variants. In the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza however, only a driver airbag is standard, while passenger airbag and ABS/EBD are available as an option on all variants. While that's still better than nothing, the Tata Nexon scores full marks here for offering them as standard, and that too at a lower price point.
In terms of features, the top-spec variants of both cars do have a decent amount of kit including climate control, keyless entry and ignition, electrically adjustable and foldable ORVMs and halogen projector headlights. But the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza is at a bit of an advantage here, offering features like auto headlights and wipers, cruise control and a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment unit compared to the Tata Nexon's 6.5-inch unit. The Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza's display resolution is far better too and supports Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink, whereas the Tata Nexon supports only Android Auto for now. That said, the Tata does have a lot more usable storage spaces all around the cabin, and a very important feature in India - rear AC vents, with independent blower speed settings.
So, has the Tata Nexon been crowned the new king of the sub-four metre ring? In our books, yes. But by the smallest of margins! The Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza is still a lovely car, and we still love how driver-focussed it is. But the Tata Nexon manages to be the better product overall. It might not be as well put together as the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza, but it's got better driveability, marginally better efficiency, a good balance between ride and handling, and a pretty good feature set. All this, for Rs 40,000 less than the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza, and the full complement of safety features on all variants too.
The Tata Nexon been crowned the new king of the sub-four metre ring? In our books, yes
All this said though, if I were to pick one, it would be - drumroll - the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza! The Tata Nexon, by winning this comparison certainly appeals to my logical side. But the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza, with its understated design, slightly European flavour and, most importantly, its driver focused personality, appeals a lot more to the heart. And sometimes, you might just be happier choosing heart over mind.